Picture a land that has glittering sandy beaches and dazzlingly blue sea, but this is not the best that this Europe’s last undiscovered gem has to offer. Behind this sea paradise, one can find never-ending lavender & immortelle fields and bountiful vineyards, interweaved by the river that sinks a countless number of times, and a cave where an unexpected encounter with an endemic human fish might be the highlight of your holidays. Try to picture yourself alone among those natural treasures. This is how the hinterlands of the Bosnian Adriatic coast, actually it’s eastern part, look like. So, when swimming and sunbathing on the beaches of Neum, Bosnia’s sole sea resort, is just not enough, and after you reveal Europe’s biggest sea secret, you can always escape to the hinterlands of Bosnia’s Mediterranean.
Popovo Polje is a valley and a large karstic field that stretches from a small town of Ravno towards the city of Trebinje, all the way till the Mt. Bijela Gora, close to the border with Montenegro. Thanks to the Mediterranean climate, with a lot of sun and mild winters, this region is very fertile. It is not surprising that some the best wines of Bosnia & Herzegovina come from here, but also famous Bosnian tobacco. Besides vineyards and tobacco, what distinguishes Popovo Polje from similar valleys is its ground that particularly fertile for wild herbs. Among more than 100 plants and herbs, countless helichrysum (immortelle) and lavender fields are priceless in terms of its final quality.
The stunning valley of Popovo Polje is a feast for all senses and the best time to explore it is summer. If you take a walk through the blooming fields, while inhaling the overwhelming scents of wild herbs, you will understand why this beauty is called “the Provence of Bosnia & Herzegovina.”
Somewhere in the middle of Popovo Polje, one can find one of the most important grottos in the world – Vjetrenica Cave. This spectacular cavern, famous worldwide for its karstic and speleological riches, is one of the most interesting caves in the whole Dinaric Alps mountain range, and the largest one in Bosnia & Herzegovina. Located near the small town of Ravno and Zavala, a medieval orthodox monastery, Vjetrenica Cave has in total over 6 km of passages, while the main channel is about 2,50 km long. One of its main attractions is the Great lake that is about 180 m long. Amongst the many archaeological discoveries are the drawings that are estimated to be over 10,000 years old.
The Cave of Vjetrenica is an underground treasure like no other. It is the richest cave in the world regarding the subterranean biodiversity with more than 200 different animal species, who completely adapted to life in the eternal darkness. Of those, 37 were discovered and described for the very first time in this place (locus typicus), mostly crabs (Crustacea), molluscs and insects. It is also a place where they found and preserved remains of an extinct species of leopard that lived in Europe (Panthera pardus spelaea). Finally, Vjetrenica is home of the Human Fish (Proteus anguinus L), an extremely endemic and the only European underwater vertebrate.
A unique phenomenon that crosses the valley of Popovo Polje, the Trebišnjica River consists of many above and underground watercourses. It originates from two streams coming from the Mt. Lebršnik and Mt. Čemerno. On its way to the Adriatic Sea, the river flows underground and reappears many times on the surface. With a total length of 187 km and half of it below the ground, it is world’s longest sinking river. It is also a remarkable hydroelectric power in this part of the country. Thanks to its still flow, the Trebišnjica is particularly suitable for water sports such as diving and fishing. Having crystal-clear water, the river is rich in endemic fish species, including famous olm (proteus) – typical for underground watercourses. The place where this river emerges in its full beauty is Trebinje, a city that charmed Napoleon. If the great emperor couldn’t resist the captivating splendor of hinterlands of Bosnian Adriatic coast, you can be sure that the same expects you.
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